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Quirky building at Meteor City, AZ
" … while passing by another hundred or three distractions we won't actually stop and see."

We drive past a hundred places for every one we stop to see. We say that we're toodling, but we do a lot more passing by than stopping to see. The Great American Southwest features no shortage of roadside attractions. From rickety little Navajo kiosks to a giant meteor crater, each attraction features some sort of sign intended to attract eye and interest, and each looks genuinely interesting in its way. We've chosen the destination or two for the day, and these diversions hector us every inch of the way. Were we to stop at each, we'd never make headway, so we become PassersBy rather than visitors. By the end of the day, we'll alight somewhere and linger long enough to feel as though we've developed a feel for the place, but our experiences will remain on the superficial side of staying, hardly even visiting at all.

When I was a kid, my family would collect bumper advertising proclaiming that we'd visited Sea Lion Caves or Trees of Mystery.
We never seemed to collect as many as some other families did, for we were Passersby no matter how many roadside attractions we'd visit. Ours was a competition nobody could win, inexhaustible desire. Even inside Grand Canyon National Park, more turnouts and viewpoints exist than any mere mortal could visit in a lifetime, or so it seems. I cold-heartedly slip right past way more than half, choosing at random which site we'll grace with an actual stop. By mid-afternoon, I've started calculating drive times to that night's destination and grow increasingly cold-hearted. The Muse, whose birth family never once took a driving vacation, seems less cynical than I and so she scours the guidebooks looking for opportunities to divert our progress. Just yesterday, we passed by opportunities to visit several museums, a volcanic crater, a recreated Hopi tower, and a meteor crater, all within a single afternoon.

We might go back by that meteor crater, though. Located along the famed route of Route 66, it's accompanied by a series of failed land development schemes. Meteor City, in spite of extensive promotion in the past, now claims a population of two. Situated in the most unpromising weed patch of a place, it seems tailor-made for PassersBy. I feel as though I've visited, though I've never actually stopped there, and that's the way it is for PassersBy. Surrounded by essentially infinite possibilities, we count as visited if we managed no more than driving near, as if passing through that local atmosphere cleared any obligation to actually stop and see.

Once we stop, we might not know what to do with ourselves. We certainly hope and pray that nobody else beat us to this opportunity, for the stopping PassersBy wish to have each diversion to themselves. The Grand Canyon seems considerably less than grand when swarmed by too many fellow travelers. The worst of humanity appears wearing Umpa-Loompa shorts and Knott's Berry Farm hoodies, bratty kids pretending that they're not hanging onto their moms like lukewarm spittle. I mentioned to The Muse, that if The Grand High Witch needed to harvest a quick thousand truly bratty kids, The Grand Canyon Visitor Center would serve as a perfect source. We, of course, exhibit none of those courser attributes, hardly even present as we are, for we're really just PassersBy, just visiting, not actually inmates in any particular asylum.

Our present toodle cannot qualify as a grand tour. We're making it up as we go along, and we feel supremely fortunate to even be PassersBy. We might as well be flying by even if we rode bicycles through, for there's just too damned much to do. The Muse reads about a dozen different places for every one we actually visit, and we glimpse a few more. I see a sign advertising Navajo Mutton Stew but we pass right through that town without even trying to find a sample. Two Arrows, a long-ago failed gas station, still sports two enormous metal arrows stuck in the ground at a forty-five degree angle next to a rusted out gas pump. I spot two people who actually stopped to look up close as we zoot by at seventy-five. We're on to Winslow, one genuinely Hell of a place to go, a stop The Muse spotted earlier that morning while plotting possible trajectories. La Posada, a lovely '30s railroad hotel, will hold our attention overnight before we toodle on to a petrified forest of international renown, before maybe checking out that meteor crater up close and personal while passing by another hundred or three distractions we won't actually stop and see.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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